Even CxOs of state and local governments must stay competitive. But how can IT departments compete amongst budget constraints and red tape? Here are 6 mindful takeaways to be competitively strategic, even in tough conditions.\n\n\nHave good posture \n\n\nSmartphones are Thom Guertin\u2019s main competition. As Rhode Island\u2019s Chief Digital Officer, he knows that RI residents expect to transact with state government as easily as with large corporations. \u201cWhen you start to get into health insurance and benefit programs, it can never be that simple, unfortunately. That's our real challenge, to be able to deal with\u2026expectations and how we answer them,\u201d Guertin shared. \u201cIt is the realization of helping [the audience] understand the complexity and what it takes to deliver on something large like that.\u201d\n\n\nMark Racine, CIO of Boston public schools, \u201ccompetes\u201d with home technology networks. The community doesn\u2019t understand why wiring schools isn\u2019t as simple as wiring homes. His response is, \u201cI sell my services to our principals and to our teachers. It's a much smaller group\u2026 They are the core of my business\u2026they are the decision-makers\u2026in their school or in their classroom.\u201d\n\n\nWho is your competition? Who is your audience? Understand that it\u2019s not about you, it\u2019s about them. Posture your message accurately \u2013 explain why the technology matters and to whom.\n\n\nPosition your messaging\n\n\nTechnologists must weave stories that help stakeholders understand how IT personally impacts them and their data.\n\n\nGuertin has two core audiences; Rhode Islanders who expect excellent service and the 50 government agencies who must buy in to the importance of technology. Guertin must position his messages uniquely for each audience and agency, describing how they will be impacted. It\u2019s all about telling the right story. The way you position your message on how well you respond to their concerns impacts your results.\n\n\nBalance priorities\n\n\nIT is at the center of constant requests from high-level stakeholders. Trying to be all things to all people results in disaster. How can IT achieve balance?\n\n\nIt\u2019s important to divide resources into two categories; initiatives that are either efficient or effective.\n\n\nRacine advocates \u201c\u2026partitioning of resources. Certain resource(s) will absolutely go toward the strategy initiatives that are high visibility\u2026 But we can't assign all the resources to them. Every day, there are priorities outside our control, [that] drive too much of our decisions.\u201d Within his large school system, Racine balances many competing priorities, some he can and can\u2019t control; such as state and federal requirements, students, and the media.\n\n\nHow does he adjust? \u201cThere's a section of my department where I say, \u2018This is my strategy crew.\u2019...That's actually allowed me to section off our innovative work from our\u2026 reactive work.\u201d\n\n\nIt doesn\u2019t matter how the partitions are labelled, as long as resources are prioritized into two buckets of efficient and effective initiatives; each with clear definitions, roles, and responsibilities.\n\n\nConverse transparently \n\n\nIf technology isn't part of the business dialogue with stakeholders from the start, there\u2019s a problem. CIOs must be at the table and able to speak freely.\n\n\nGuertin shares, \u201cIt's pretty much every day I hear from someone, \u2018This is really important to the governor.\u2019 I tell them, \u2018You may want this in Labor and Training, but in the Department of Education, these are the big things I'm working on [for them].\u2019 They understand it.\u201d Conveying competing priorities between groups helps immensely. \u201cIt's a big part to be able to say, \u2018Can we all agree this is really the important [item] to put up the priority chain?\u2019\u201d Guertin adds.\n\n\nAccording to Racine, \u201cTo be able to help [stakeholders] and for them to help me, being transparent with them\u2026without being overwhelming or confusing\u2026has been\u2026very helpful. Transparency is key because you're going to have competing interests, and being able to be transparent about\u2026priorities\u2026is the only way those competing interests will ever be able to understand each other. Being transparent with everything that's going on in my department and my budget\u2026 has helped us get through some really tough issues.\u201d\n\n\nUse internal SLAs\n\n\nInternal Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are key in a CIO\u2019s competitive strategy. How can anyone be accountable when there is no way to measure the success of a particular spend?\n\n\nGuertin comments, \u201cCertainly in this day and age\u2026performance metrics and KPIs, are big parts\u2026in how we measure the success of a lot of these programs and projects. Like wait times at the DMV. Very tangible measures of success. We can find those KPIs in a number of different areas. You hold your vendors accountable and you have to hold those [internal] businesses accountable as well.\u201d\n\n\nRefine\n\n\nLoop back through the process and make refinements. CIOs know the importance of beta testing a new system to obtain and then implement feedback to make an even better solution.\n\n\nWhether you\u2019re the CIO of a school, a state government, or a business of any size, using these tips will help you better tell your story, allocate your resources, garner buy-in and, most of all, stay competitive.